In Julie Taymor's version of 'The Tempest,' the main character is now a woman named Prospera. Going back to the 16th or 17th century, women practicing the magical arts of alchemy were often convicted of witchcraft. In Taymor's version, Prospera is usurped by her brother and sent off with her four-year daughter on a ship. She ends up on an island; it's a tabula rasa: no society, so the mother figure becomes a father figure to Miranda. This leads to the power struggle and balance between Caliban and Prospera; a struggle not about brawn, but about intellect. Written by
The decision to switch the gender of the lead character was a diving board to a whole new appreciation of the play. It had everything to do with Helen Mirren and a coincidental exchange that Julie Taymor had with the actress. When Taymor encountered Helen Mirren at a party, she had already envisioned Mirren in the role and their conversation cemented her decision. "We were talking Shakespeare," Taymor recollects, "and she had no idea I was planning this film when she mentioned that the first Shakespeare she ever did was Caliban in 'The Tempest,' and she actually said to me, 'You know, I could play Prospero-as a woman.' And I said, 'Do you want to? Because I've been preparing a film version of "The Tempest" with exactly that in mind.' And, fortunately, she said yes." See more »
The metal-thread piping on the outfits of Antonio and several others are actually zippers. This is clear in the close-ups for the spell circle scene where a zipper on his sleeve is open and the slider is visible as Prospera talks to him. The zipper sliders on the top of the outfit that Prospera wears after this scene are still attached (they look like points, or ends of laces). See more »
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little lives are rounded with a sleep.
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Throughout the credits we see Prospera's books sinking in the ocean one by one, presumably after she tossed each of them in. See more »
In casting Helen Mirren as Prospera, director Julie Taymor adds an interesting spin to this Shakespeare adaptation.
Also CGI effects help make more sense of the story.
On the downside, film versions of the bard's plays rarely work perfectly (with the honourable exception of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet) and unless you know the play already, the action here is pretty hard to follow. Also, it's a bit strange seeing comic genius Alan Cumming in a straight role.
Ultimately though, the main joy of the movie is Dame Helen. She does bitterness superbly. I loved the scene when Miranda first meets Ferdinand - Mirren's ironic commentary added a whole new dimension to the play for me.
I also loved Tony Conti as the aged senator Gonzalo. His performance is so masterful it puts his character at the forefront of the story for once - no bad thing.
Overall I think Shakespeare fans will really enjoy this film. Other people may be left a little bored and bewildered.
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